6 December 2022
New Zealand plans to introduce a fart tax in 2025. The problem is, the Ardern government hasn’t discussed the detail about how it would work, what the rate would be, and how it would be administered. Given Ardern’s sinking popularity, she may be feeling the pulse of the country and discovering that it’s highly unlikely she will be in power in 2025 when the ‘said’ tax is meant to be introduced.
In Australia, Labor has honoured its cross-Pacific red sisterhood and jumped on the tax. Like much of the bureaucratic world (whose members have no worldly experience), politicians are quick to parrot the ‘look what they’re doing there, we can do that here’ line without considering what both the consequences and unintended consequences may be.
To be clear, the fart tax is set to be placed upon ruminant animals – animals that convert grass into meat, bones, hair/wool, and produce methane as a by-product. Is this a clever tax, or is this tax as clever as the idea that renewables and rare earth batteries can power the planet on their own?
Ruminant animals (the ones being taxed) are a group of animals that eat grass. The digestive tracts of ruminant animals are very different from other mammals with grass stored and partially digested in the rumen – known as cud. Grass is made of cellulose, a complex carbohydrate the human digestive tract cannot digest – fibre.
Small lumps of cud are returned to the mouth from the rumen for rumination where the cud undergoes microbial fermentation and is broken down into three volatile fatty acids – acetic acid, propionic acid, and butyric acid. The volatile fatty acid, propionate, is used for 70 per cent of the glucose and glycogen produced and 20 per cent of protein.
Methane gas is a by-product of cellulose digestion with the rumen a major site of methane production and release. A 550kg dairy cow grazing on pasture emits 325gm methane per day, but there are other sources of methane in the environment and many questions.
A recent study in the UK found that 73 dairy cows were fed 23.7kg dry matter per day and released 282gm – 408gm of methane per day. Let us assume the dry matter was 80 per cent cellulose making for 18.960kg cellulose per day and that cellulose, which is 44.44 per cent carbon, contained 8.42kg of carbon.
The median methane production per cow was 344gm per day, which is 75 per cent carbon and equivalent to 258 grams of carbon released per day. The carbon leakage in terms of methane production is 258gm/8420gm is 3.06 per cent.
Animal agriculture constitutes approximately 30 per cent of all anthropogenic methane emissions, but as we can see it takes approximately 33gm of carbon ingested as cellulose to release 1gm of carbon as methane. Methane is reportedly a stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but a gas that is degraded by ozone in the upper atmosphere back into carbon dioxide and water.
It is absolutely true that domesticated or farmed ruminants produce more methane than their wild or feral counterparts – but is it wise to criticize their diets?
Asparagopsis is a native seaweed grown in Australian waters and around the world which, when added to ruminant feed, can reduce methane production from enteric fermentation by up to 95 per cent. It has been hailed as the panacea for reductions in methane production by livestock. Short-term studies have found A. taxiformis decreased methane production over time scales of approximately 3 days, but longer-term trials are necessary. Other studies found the incorporation of Asparagopsis at 3 per cent of ingested feedstock was sufficient to reduce methane production by as much as 80 per cent.
Does the activity of farming Asparagopsis lead to greater carbon emissions than are saved by the reduction in methane? Is farming Asparagopsis more efficient that identifying and synthetically producing the co-factors of Asparagopsis which inhibit methane production?
Did you know that humans fart on average 14 times per day and most of these emissions are methane, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen? Vegetables such as brassicas (cabbage/broccoli family), beans, and asparagus are all known to contain raffinose and increase greenhouse gas emissions in humans. Raffinose is a trisaccharide composed of glucose, fructose, and galactose which can be hydrolyzed by alpha-galactosidase – the only problem is that this enzyme is not found in the human digestive tract.
There are 7.5 billion humans on the planet. If we assume they produce 5 per cent of the emissions of cattle produce (325gm), human emissions would be equal to 16.275gm of methane or 12.2gm carbon as methane. Multiply that by 7,500,000,000 people and we have 91.5 million kg of carbon emitted in methane produced daily by humans.
If we can tax cattle, which may be carbon neutral or better, for farting … why shouldn’t we tax foods that lead to more flatulence by humans? ‘Baked beans are good for your heart…’ We could do something as simple as adding GST to fresh produce, an idea long disliked by the Left due to claims it will lead to more expensive fresh food (which is good for your health), but is it good for the environment? With all this to consider, we should be able to ask our wise leaders how much they fart. ‘Jacinda, are you an average farter or other?’ ‘Mr Albanese, where do you sit on the fart spectrum?’ How about we just apply a tax to foods high in raffinose? Silly idea? Yes, just as silly as taxing ruminants…
In order of consumption, India, Brazil, and Mexico eat the most legumes in the world. Beans contain raffinose and raffinose leads to increase human flatulence. These three countries account for 1.73 billion people or about 22 per cent of the world’s population. If only we cut of their diets they would produce less global warming flatulence.
Mature forests produce and consume carbon dioxide and methane. Studies vary now, but when I studied sciences 20 years ago, mature forests were thought of as sources, not sinks, of carbon. Recent studies argue that mature forests are not sinks for increased carbon emissions.
When it comes to forests, should we consider mature forests as fence-sitters in the climate debate? Should we consider cutting all those forests down and using timber for chipping and construction timber thereby fixing carbon into housing and construction and for paper from chipping and pulping government paperwork storage sites – you know, all that rubbish paperwork the internet and automation was meant to abolish?
Should logging and forestry companies be granted carbon credits and rights to fell old-growth forests because they are either in equilibrium with carbon or are in fact emitting carbon while forestry plantations are sequestering carbon? Countries like Australia, with vast expanses of dry but otherwise arable land, would benefit either from increased rainfall or irrigation for such purposes. Theoretically.
The most abundant stock animal in the world is the chicken with an estimated 20 billion chickens. There are 1.4 billion cattle and 980 million pigs and there are reasons for the vast differences. Chickens breed very quickly and hatchings can be done on mass scale. Ruminant animals are slow breeders which scarcely have more than one offspring in a season and require one year to maturity for sheep and three years to maturity for cattle.
Chickens are ready for market in weeks and, from my own experience, it only takes 4-5 months for a pig to reach 45kg, the sweet spot for slaughter. Pigs produce only 0.03 Gt of methane compared to 1.64 Gt from ruminants. Pigs produce 55 times less methane than ruminants and given their fast, fecund breeding and time to market they are an ideal animal to farm for the world’s omnivores.
Among the world’s largest consumers of ruminants are north Africa, Middle East, and South West Asia. The religion most characteristic of these regions is Islam. Israel, in the Middle East, is a Jewish state. Neither Islam nor Judaism eat pork. For Muslims, eating pork is Haram, forbidden. Islam builds on Christianity and Judaism. Muslims and Jews refrain from eating pork because it is considered an unclean animal that scavenges on dead animals, much like crustacea, and are therefore considered unhealthy to eat.
Albanese and Charmers are on a crusade to save the planet by reducing our 1.2 per cent global emissions by closing one power plant at a time, the trickle-down effect will be high power prices and the loss of manufacturing one business at a time. Now that Labor has rejected Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, will Labor mandate that the only meat eaten in the Tel Aviv embassy be pork? Will Labor campaign in the seats of Western Sydney against the traditional eating of lamb and goat to save the planet? If Albanese and Chalmers can convince the Islamic and Jewish worlds to stop eating ruminants and instead eat pork, the world will surely thank him.
On the topic of food, Albanese and Chalmers can surely target the legume eaters of India, Brazil, and Mexico whose mix of legumes in their diets is famous for farting – by those not so used to them. If we can target the diets of 1 billion ruminant cattle around the world, suggest they eat Asparagopsis or be exterminated, surely we can talk of the 1.73 billion biggest bean-eating farters?
I am a wine producer. On my vineyards, I run sheep over winter. Sheep keep grasses and under-vine weeds down, snails have less to overwinter on and seldom need baiting, tractors, and slashers, and herbicides are used less and every year ewes raise their lambs and we get to butcher our own meat. How will the fart tax impact my business and operations? Will I be better off spending more time in the tractor and slasher spraying more herbicide?
The benefits for ruminants are their meat, milk, and skins used for shoes, belts, leather products, rennet use to make cheese, gelatin from their hooves, many more things I’m sure. The more we sideline our natural resources the more we pervert the natural world. Yeast barely make a living from alcoholic fermentation but we love yeast for it. Ruminants eat grasses, clean up roadways, driveways, fence lines, and ultimately reduce fuel going into bushfire seasons.
Synthetics continue to replace natural fibers and we infantilise adults who drink vegan-friendly wine when it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Albanese and Chalmers wet their fingers and thrust them in the air on Ardern’s fart tax talk thinking, this could be a vote winner. As career politicians, neither of them considered how demented and illogical their tax proposals would be, nor did any members of Cabinet or agriculture minister Murray Watt think to school him on the carbon accounting of such a scheme. The fart tax is rooted in ideology and like their cancellation of regional grants, represents a crusade against the very regional people who didn’t vote for them but are responsible for a large part of Australia’s wealth and GDP. The Australian taxation needs simplifying, it needs tax reform not ill-thought, knee-jerk taxes. We need fewer taxes more efficiently collected and more efficiently spent.